“Love to run? Here’s everything you need to know about how your exercise of choice affects your skin.”
When you think about what affects your skin, you likely think about the products you use, maybe the treatments or facials you get. But have you ever considered how your workout routine impacts your complexion? Breaking news: It does, and in a big way. Take running, for example. Whether you’re pounding the pavement or tackling the treadmill, running impacts more than just your heart, lungs, muscles, and waistline. While it may not necessarily be the first connection you’d make, running does inevitably play a role in how your skin looks in several different ways that are worth being aware of. Here’s what you need to know before you lace up those sneakers.
There’s a connection between running and sun damage.
This is a BIG one. If you’re an outdoor runner, you’re, obviously, exposed to sunlight throughout your entire run. And while you may be diligent about slathering on sunscreen during your summer runs, are you doing so during the other three seasons? Fingers crossed that you are (and if you aren’t, you really should). The sun emits both UVA and UVB rays; UVB are the ones responsible for burning the top layer of skin, and are stronger during the summer. UVA rays, on the other hand, are the same strength year-round, are present even on a cloudy day, and can even penetrate through glass (which means even if you’re running indoors near a window, you’re at risk). So yes, you probably won’t get burned during an outdoor November run, but you are still at risk for all of that UVA damage. These rays penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and are responsible for all kinds of signs of aging (wrinkles, sagging), not to mention cell damage that can cause skin cancer. Hard pass.
Your best bet—if we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times—is to apply a sunscreen every. single. day. 365 days a year, running or not. Be extra diligent about shielding your skin before you head out for a run. Make sure to cover any and all exposed areas on your body, as well as your face. Face-wise, now’s the time to opt for sweatproof formulas (since not only do you want the sunscreen to stay on for protection purposes, you also don’t want it running into and stinging your eyes while you run.) Stick formulas are an especially great pick for around your eyes and on your face; they contain higher levels of acrylates, ingredients that essentially make the formula less likely to migrate. And while they shouldn’t be relied on as a sunscreen substitute, a hat and sunglasses are a good extra level of protection.
Sweating can affect your skin.
While obviously working up a sweat is the sign of a good run, it’s important to remember that you want to get it off your skin as soon as possible post run. Runner’s skin can be susceptible to breakouts; when sweat sits on your skin, it can mix with the oil and any products (hello, sunscreen) on there, creating an unwanted mixture that can ultimately end up clogging pores and leading to, you guessed it, blemishes. If a full-on face washing session isn’t in the cards post-run, using a toner is a great and fast alternative. Dab some onto a cotton pad and swipe it across your face to remove any sweat. Bonus: This was also feel delightfully refreshing. Try Skinsei All Toned Up Toner—pH balanced and alcohol-free, it’s the ideal pick to cleanse and freshen up your skin, without leaving it stripped. (Just remember to reapply your sunscreen afterwards, please!) And while we’re on this point, don’t forget your body. Sitting in a sweaty tank top or sports bra is a recipe for body breakouts, and let’s be real, back-ne just isn’t cute. If you can’t change or shower right away, use the toner to wipe down breakout-prone spots on your body, specifically your chest and back.
There’s also this thing called ‘runner’s face….’
If you haven’t heard this slightly scary sounding term, it basically refers to a sunken, hollowed out, jowl-y look, the thinking being that all of the repeated bouncing causes your skin to sag, while burning calories can leave your face looking gaunt. In theory, this can happen to ultra-marathoners (or anyone who is over-exercising, not even just necessarily running for that matter). But for regular runners this isn’t a concern, nor should it be a deterrent, since there are so many good-for-your-skin benefits to running and exercising (we’ll get to those in a minute). If you’re concerned about runner’s face, the absolute best thing you can do goes back to, shocker, sunscreen. Exposure to UV rays breaks down collagen and elastin, the proteins responsible for keeping your skin firm, healthy, supple, and non-saggy, essentially. Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet and getting enough calories, too.
So, is running good for your skin?
YES. Let’s talk about all the great things it can do for you, shall we? Running—and any kind of exercise—releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals in your brain, that not only improve your mood, but are excellent at helping to control cortisol. If endorphins are the good guys, cortisol is the wicked villain. The hormone is released when you’re stressed, triggering a cascade of negative effects on your skin, everything from increased inflammation to more breakouts to increased dullness to dryness. Keep that cortisol in check with a regular running and not only will you feel better, mentally, but your skin will thank you, too. Aerobic exercise is also is a great way to increase circulation and blood flow throughout your body, including to your skin, which translates to a more glow-y, radiant complexion. We’ll happily log an extra mile or two for that.